On Friday, Virginia board member Ralph Northam (D) announced the state plans to invest $ 700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to achieve broadband connections by 2024. This new investment will save four years from the governor’s original plan to connect every household to high-speed broadband.
The pandemic had a dramatic impact on the way people work and go to school – forcing many clerks to renew their efforts to get citizens online. According to Northam, more than 233,000 homes and businesses in Virginia do not have a broadband connection.
“It’s time to end the digital divide in our community and treat Internet service as a necessity of the 21st century – not just a luxury for some, but a necessity for everyone,” Northam said in a press release on Friday. “The pandemic has reinforced the importance of high-quality broadband for health, education and economic opportunities, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind.”
The Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to meet for a special session on Aug. 2 to plan a path to spending the funds.
At a news conference announcing the investment on Friday, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) praised the funding and promised that Virginia lawmakers would work alongside the governor’s office to provide lasting connections for the future.
“When we talk about broadband, let’s make it clear that we’re working under the leadership of the governor, not at slow speeds like 25 down and three up, but at much higher speeds,” Warner said Friday. “So you can really see someone zoom in.”
In a July report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asked the Federal Communications Commission consider its current minimum broadband standard 25Mbps download and 3Mbps download speeds. According to GAO, in 2021, most businesses will not be able to operate efficiently at such slow speeds.
In March, President Joe Biden signed U.S. Rescue Plan, which provides billions in COVID-19 assistance to states. Virginia got over $ 4 billion in relief, a cash reserve used to support public broadband access.
“This is going to be fiber, satellite, maybe wireless,” Warner said Friday. “We’ve all been illustrating this kind of future for a while now.”